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As the municipal department responsible for the design, construction, renovation, and operation of public projects, you may not realize how crucial you are to building powerful relationships between residents and your local government. If you’ve traditionally thought that the responsibility of fostering two-way dialogue with community members, responding to concerns, and fostering positive sentiments falls with your elected officials and public communications office, you only see part of the picture.
What residents want most of all from their local government are efficient interactions. They want to do business with their local government, obtain services, and see progress on initiatives. Further, they want those moments to be frictionless, personalized, and singular. The municipal department most able to deliver on these expectations is public works—the department largely responsible for making a community the smoothly running, clean, efficient place that people want to call home.
The Truth Behind Resident Engagement and Civic Experience
In 2021, CivicPlus surveyed over 2,000 residents to ask about their relationships with municipalities and what most impacts how they feel about their local government. We expected to hear that people wanted outreach. We anticipated they would tell us that they want their elected officials to reach out and pull them into conversations about community, development, and economic prosperity. We expected them to tell us that they wanted to be heard, appreciated, and valued.
While these sentiments exist, they are secondary to people’s desire for simple, seamless transactional relationships with their local government. Most importantly, people told us that they want accessible, updated, and accurate information to be available, and they want frictionless interactions that make basic service obtainment as simple as placing a pizza order for delivery.
Public Works’ Role in Creating Personalized and Efficient Resident Interactions
Knowing that people want accessible information, services, and quick-and-easy service request management, an opportunity for public works departments to build positive resident relationships becomes clear. The opportunity is ripe, but to be successful, public works departments have to implement the infrastructure, training, and systems needed to deliver on community member expectations.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted how Americans live and work by placing new emphasis on digital access, residents have heightened expectations for contactless government services. For public works, that means people no longer accept calling or walking into their public works office to report a broken streetlight. Nor do they want to mail a paper check to their town every month to pay their water bill. Instead, public works departments that enable digital service request management with transparent resolution visibility stand to create the types of frictionless, one-stop interactions that create positive community member relationships.
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